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Canned Garden Bridge Trust to explain public spending

garden bridge

All public money spent on the cancelled Garden Bridge project will be accounted for by the Garden Bridge Trust as it closes down, according to its chairman Lord Mervyn Davis.

Yesterday (Monday) the Garden Bridge Trust announced it had cancelled the £200M scheme, blaming a lack of commitment from London mayor Sadiq Khan. In April Khan scrapped the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) backing for the Garden Bridge after a report by Dame Margaret Hodge’s advised the project be stopped as it was “poor value for money”.

Last week Khan announced on LBC that taxpayers should “wave goodbye” to the almost £50M of public money already spent on the bridge.

In a letter to Sadiq Khan, chair of the Garden Bridge Trust Lord Mervyn Davies stressed that the public money would be accounted for.

“On the subject of where the money has gone, we will, of course, account for every line of expenditure as part of the winding up operation,” he wrote.

Davies added that the trust had attempted to find a way forward given the “tens of thousands of hours of effort by the design and construction team”.

In 2015 a joint venture of Bouygyes and Cimolai was appointed to build the bridge, designed by architect Heatherwick Studio, before enabling works were suspended in July 2016 due to funding concerns. Consultant Arup had been undertaking the detailed design; a spokesperson for the company said it had already been paid for the work and so would not be looking for compensation.

“The Garden Bridge would have been a unique place: a beautiful contribution to a green city, free to use and open to all. It would have brought significant transport, business and community benefits, already evident in the offers of funds made by individuals, trusts and companies across the UK as well as in our partnerships with community organisations,” wrote Davies.

“It would have been a showcase for the best of British talent, sending a message to the world that London and the UK still lead the way in creativity, ambition and innovation - and, of course, that London is open. Regrettably, declining to lend your sufficient support to the many others already aboard for this landmark project sends a quite different message.”

Meanwhile Heatherwick Studio founder Thomas Heatherwick said he still has hope that the Garden Bridge will be built one day.

“Everyone on the GBT board gave their time and hearts unpaid to give London a free new garden and important public artery, and so many donors gave money without looking for anything back other than doing something good for London,” said Heatherwick.

“Our cities need optimistic amazing people like this. And London needs new bridges and unexpected new public places.

“The Garden Bridge has not found its right moment, but I hope one day it will and that London continues to be open to ideas that make life here better.”

However, Aecom managing director for highways and bridges end market Paul McCormick said the “whimsical infrastructure project” should have been stopped sooner.

“Whilst to some it may seem disappointing to see the project halted, it is a shame that it wasn’t stopped before £46M of public money was spent on this whimsical infrastructure project,” he said.

“Questions need to be asked how such a vast sum could have been frittered away so quickly without an effective rate of return on the investment or controls put in place.”

In May New Civil Engineer revealed that £346,500 has been spent on enabling works at Temple station, which would have needed its roof strengthened to support the bridge. Although no construction was carried out, surveying work had begun.



Readers' comments (3)

  • Philip Alexander

    So if architects Heatherwick and engineers Arup "designed" it, how were they appointed? Was there a competitive tender run under EU procurement rules or was it just a case of a direct appointment under the old boy's club rules?
    If contractors were also appointed, how was that done? Was it a competitive tendering process or once again was it a direct appointment breaking all the procurement rules?
    If the answer to either one of those procurement questions is that procurement rules were broken, then I would be looking for punitive action against the individuals and organisations involved. Perhaps that's why the trust is being wound up????
    And the big question remains how on earth did they manage to spend £46 MILLION without doing anything on the ground? Usually in a public-private funded project the private sector puts its money at risk first and the public purse is most protected against default etc. If the private sector had really put up £70 million to help fund it, then this money should be used to cover the costs. The reverse seems to be the case here and I really do question if that was by accident, complete incompetence by the Client organisation or design on the part of all the various parties to this fiasco. The PAC should ask for the expenditure breakdown immediately since if there was any sort of financial integrity to this expenditure, it would be easy to just pull off the figures from their financial spreadsheet, it can't be that difficult. I expect they will delay releasing this information in the hope that everyone will have forgotten by the time they do, or release it on the day that Trump nukes Kim. They will be playing for time in order to try to get all their stories straight about this appalling waste of public money. Disgusting.

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  • Our profession has not covered itself with glory on this sorry tale.

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  • £50M of public money wasted on a vanity project. I can't wait to hear the explanation of how this vast sum of money was spent on design.

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